“What??” you say, recoiling. Yes, but I would be out there asking questions. I’m not sure if most of the protestors wanted to be asked questions. More importantly, I have my doubts that most of them have asked many questions themselves. It’s much easier to just go out and yell; scream; wave signs; and, in some cases, burn cars and loot businesses.
Here is the first question I would ask: Why are you here? Now, the temptation for most of the protestors would be to start telling me how unarmed Michael Brown lost his life to a police officer’s bullet and about the Garner case, etc. But, I think it behooves all of them — and us — to answer the “why” questions starting with the word, “because” — something along the lines of “Because I am angry about the grand jury’s decision on the Brown case.” That’s a start, but then the follow-up question would be, “What do you think should be done about it?” Is that correct? No, that should be the #3 follow-up question (I’ll get to follow-up question #2 a little later).
Recently, I was listening to some educated people discussing the situations in Ferguson, Missouri; in New York City; and, now, all over the place. On this television show, these knowledgeable individuals (two of whom had never worn a police uniform) spoke very matter-of-factly that there needs to be sweeping “change” and “reform” in our nations police departments. Now, I have some questions for them: what specifically should be reformed? Changes in what? Take away our guns? Take away people and put robo-cops out there? Eliminate grand juries? what do you mean by change and reform, exactly? I listened to the show for a half hour and never heard any specifics whatsoever.
Here in Miami, hundreds of protesters recently blocked a portion of I-95 and caused a massive traffic jam during rush hour (we already have massive traffic jams during this time, so this one was “ultramassive”). You’ll notice that, in a previous column, I spoke about my experiences in the 1980 riots in Miami and how Ferguson wouldn’t be the last of them. It won’t unless we do implement some sort of change, so I have some changes to propose.
We need to change what we are teaching our children in the classrooms and households of America, starting when they are old enough to read and write. I don’t know about you, but I’m 56 and, when I went to elementary school, there was a huge emphasis on being good citizens (citizenship was also emphasized in the Boy Scouts back in the day). What did that mean? Well, it meant appreciating our country and helping to take card of it, starting with stuff which third graders can understand, like “Don’t litter!” But, to appreciate something, you have to understand it, don’t you? So, my change and reform is focused on teaching children that they are citizens and like any give-and-take relationship, their obligation is to give to the community by understanding it laws and respecting them. When they get to be middle-schoolers, let’s start talking about the legal process. Let’s explain to them that we have this wondrous document called the Constitution and that, when people say, “I know my rights,” it is their duty as citizens to understand those rights. Let’s teach them–starting in the sixth grade and not stopping until they graduate high school–that everyone in our country has equal protection under the law and that everyone gets this very cool thing called due process. let’s make them understand and appreciate the 14th Amendment because that part of the Constitution is the most compassionate elements any government has ever created for its citizens. We’ll teach them that part of this due process thing is states have grand juries.
We take you now to our roving reporter, Nancy Newscaster, , who is on-scene at I-95 in Miami where hundreds of protesters have gathered right in the middle of the expressway to protest the Brown and Garner decisions. Nancy, can you hear us?
Nancy (with finger in one ear, looks around during that annoying five second delay, then smiles): Yes, Ramesh, I can hear you! It’s quite a scene over here. I’m going to talk to some of these protestors and see what’s going on! (She moves closer to a scowling woman carrying a sign which says, “Police=Legalized Murder”)
Nancy: Ma’am, can I ask you something, please? Why are you here?
Protestor: Cuz, I’m angry! The Police are getting away with killing our young people! We’re tired of it! We need change and uh…reeee….
Nancy: Um, you mean REFORM?
Protestor: Yeah. And, we’re angry about them damned grand juries. They don’t think a young man’s life is worth anything. We need to get of these damned grand juries!
Nancy: Can you tell us exactly what a grand jury is and what they do?
(Congrats, Nancy, you nailed it! That’s follow-up question # 2!)
Protestor: Umm…yeah. They’re a bunch of racists who make sure minorities don’t get any justice!
Nancy: Well, actually, I can tell you exactly what a grand jury is. Can you get everyone to move to the side of the road a moment and I’ll explain?
(Here’s the fairyland part of this where the protestors actually move to the side and take a seat, intently listening to Nancy.)
Nancy: You see, class (a projector screen appears out of nowhere, with a PowerPoint presentation which says, “Grand Juries for Protestors”), a grand jury is actually a layer of protection for the citizens. It’s a safeguard against corrupt or overzealous government, providing a step in due process which give the citizens themselves a chance to test the case for validity. Grand juries make sure that cases are viable enough to go to trial, so that no one gets prosecuted maliciously for something substantial and lose their freedom or their life because of a prosecutor who wants to imprison them without having a solid case. If we do away with grand juries for police officers, the 14th Amendment says we would have to do away with them for everyone-including you and your families.
Random protestors: Oh, wow, we didn’t really see it that way. Gee, thanks, Nancy. We’ll go home now. (Protestors pick up their signs and place them in a nearby recycling bin and head off, apologizing to the motorists who are not able to head home.)
And, then, I woke up!
2015 is shaping up to be full of surprises-I wish you much joy in the New Year.
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